Apology by the Bishop of Pamiers
On October 16, 2016, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pamiers apologised
for acts contrary to Gospel. Though not explicit, these acts are
widely taken to include the Crusade against the Cathars, the activities
of the Inquisition in the Languedoc, and in particular, the burning
of some 225 baptised Cathars at Montsegur in 1244.
Speaking in French, the bishop said:
"We ask the Lord for forgiveness for some of our members
and some of our institutions participating in acts contrary to
the Gospel, in which the Lord Jesus gave us the commandment to
love our neighbour and not to respond to violence with violence"
The Bishop's apology was made specifically on behalf of his diocese.
The apology was made at a crowded hour-long service (a "celebration"
not a mass) at the village Church of Montsegur - with a thousand
or so listening outside. The Cathars' distinctive form of the Lord's
prayer was sung in the church. Cathars never built or used church
buildings, so this might have been the first time the Cathar form
of the Lord's Prayer has ever been used in a church.
Red and gold flowers - the colours of both the Counts of Foix and
the Counts of Toulouse decorated the church. Outside many carried
flags bearing the red and gold cross of Toulouse, the heraldic device
of the Counts of Toulouse eight hundred years ago.
The general perception was that this ceremony was perfectly pitched.
Even the weather cooperated providing an almost cloudless October
sky. The ceremony was conducted in a mixture of Occitan and French.
Monseigneur Jean-Marc Eychenne looked perfectly at ease and smiled
warmly throughout the songs sung in Occitan. In his address, he
referred specifically to Cathars as brothers and sisters - an acknowledgment
of their Christian faith. He also referred by name to Bertrand Marty,
a Cathar bishop who was burned at the stake at Montsegur in 1244,
and he explicitly used the word "persecution". Nòstre
Paire, The Lord's Prayer was read in Occitan by Muriel
Batbie-Castell, then recited by the congregation in French (For
Cathars, the Lord's Prayer held special significance retained
from the earliest days of Christianity). She also sang « Ihesus
Cristz » written in 1275 by Guiraut Riquier one of the last
troubadours, who had had personally experienced the crusade and
the inquisition, before he went into exile in Aragon. The group
Terra Maïre sang a moving "Cathar anthem"
Lo Boièr in Occitan. At the end the bishop participated
actively in the Pax - a practical realisation of the theme of reconciliation.
After the celebration those present, including the bishop, Monseigneur
Jean-Marc Eychenne, then walked in silence to a nearby field, to
a place thought to mark the spot where some 225 baptised Cathars
were burned alive in 1244. Everyone carried branches of laurel -
a reference to an Occitan saying associated with the Cathars, and
predicting the revival of Occitan culture after seven hundred years
(The last known baptised Cathar in the Languedoc was burned alive
by the Archbishop of Narbonne in 1321, so the seven hundredth anniversary
will fall in 2021). Music, Graile e de la Bodèga was
played by Xavier Vidal et Claude Roméro. Se Canto,
the Occitan national anthem was sung. Claude Marti sang "Montségur".
Along with his sprig of laurel, the bishop carried a simple shepherd's
crook made of wood and iron, another gesture of humility that resonated
well - Monstsegur like much of the diocese lies in mountainous sheep
country, and many Cathar shepherds would have carried similar crooks
in the High Middle Ages.
Formalities concluded with a "verre de l'amitié"
at the village hall.
The castle and pog of Montsegur seen from
A memorial to the massacre at Lavaur where
some 400 Cathars were burned alive.
"At Lavaur the Occitan people lost their
But in seven centuries the laurel will turn
The clear consensus among those present was that this apology marked
an important historical event. The bishop was born in Pamiers, so
understood local sensibilities. He and his clergy recognised that
the wound inflicted in the thirteenth century was still raw and
bleeding in the twenty-first, that the embers were still glowing.
He has done pretty much everything that could be expected of him.
Those present, from supposed neo-Cathars to government functionaries,
from academics to Catholic clergy appeared happy with the day's
events. Many were visibly moved.
A great a success as it was, the bishop's apology is widely seen
as only the start. As Bertrand de la Farge put it, "Today's
event is the first step of a process". Medieval Bishops of
Pamiers played a small and late (though well publicised) part in
the persecution of the Cathars. Those who share a much greater portion
of responsibility for the persecution of the Cathars include the
whole of the Catholic Church as a corporate entity, the papacy,
the Cistercians, the Dominicans and the archbishoprics of Narbonne
and Toulouse. Cistercians promoted a Crusade against the Cathars
of the Languedoc, and the head of the Cistercian Order, the Abbot
of Cîteaux, personally commanded the Crusade during its initial
phase. Dominicans created and manned the first papal Inquisition,
the organisation tasked with the extirpation of the Cathars after
the Crusade. The bald fact is that along with local bishops they
were responsible for burning alive countless thousands for the crime
of disagreeing with them - not for anything else. That eight-hundred
year old wound is unlikely to heal until they each make unconditional
apologies with the same grace as Monseigneur the Bishop of Pamiers.
Representatives of the Cistercian and Dominican Orders had been
invited on the 16th October, but were not present at the ceremony.
BBC, World Service Global News 17 October 2016.
GlobalNewsPodcast-20161017 - Audio in English
Programme (relevant news item at 23 mins 22 secs)
the relevant news item (very good piece by Hugh Schofield)
BBC, Radio4 The World Tonight 17 October 2016 - Audio
Programme (link to BBC) (relevant news item at 41 mins 39 secs)
the relevant news item (populist piece by Shaun Ley, mainly
from an ill-informed novelist who happens to be a previous Chairman
of the BBC)
Times, Cathars Get An Apology, 7th October 2016
Vatican: L'évêque de Pamiers : pardon pour les
crimes contre les cathares, 17 October 2016.
Figaro: L'Eglise demande pardon pour les Cathares, 16
(reportage vidéo): Montségur: L'église
demande pardon aux Cathares, 17 October 2016
Point: L'Église d'Ariège demande pardon
pour le massacre des cathares, 22 Septeber, 2016
Minutes: Massacre des Cathares : Près de 800 ans après,
lEglise catholique ariégeoise va demander pardon,
17 October 2016
Minutes: Près de huit siècles après
le massacre des Cathares, lEglise dAriège a demandé
pardon, 17 October 2016
Léglise catholique dAriège demande
pardon pour Montségur, 20 September 2016
La repentance de Montségur, 12 October 2016
Le laurier a bien reverdi à Montségur, 16 October
Montségur: l'Église catholique d'Ariège demande
pardon pour le massacre des cathares, 16 October 2016
Libre, 17 October 2016
Dépêche: L'Eglise demande pardon pour le massacre
des cathares, 23 September, 2016.
Dépêche: Dimanche, l'Église d'Ariège
demandera pardon aux Cathares, 15 October 2016
Dépêche: Montségur: l'évêché
de l'Ariège demande "pardon" pour le massacre des
Cathares, 16 October 2016
Dépêche: Cathares : l'église demande
pardon, 17 October 2016
Croix: Lévêque de Pamiers demande pardon
pour le sort réservé aux cathares, 16 October
Croix: Comprendre lhérésie cathare,
8 October 2016
Gazette Ariégeoise: Catharisme et Paratge : pourquoi
nous étions à Montségur, 17 October 2016
Catholique, DRAME DE MONTSÉGUR : LÉglise
dAriège a fait sa démarche de pardon, 17
October 2016. Includes, verbatim, the Communiqué and
Homélie of Monseigneur Jean-Marc Eychenne at Montségur,
Chretienne, 17 October 2016
Setmana: Perdon de Montsegur «nos cal avançar,
sens oblidar», 17 October 2016
Jornalet : Levesque de Pàmias demandarà
perdon per la Crosada contra los catars, 22 September, 2016
Bishop of Pàmias to ask forgiveness for Cathar Crusade,
Repentance ceremony to be held October 16, Montsegur killings
at heart of event, 22 September, 2016 (English translation
of the Occitan article by Lo Jornalet above).
Jornalet: Levesque de Pàmias, Jean-Marc Eychenne,
demandarà uèi perdon per la Crosada contra los catars,
16 October 2016
Jornalet: Cinc cents èran a Montsegur
Succès public de la demanda de perdon de levesque de
Pàmias per la Crosada contra los catars, 17 October 2016
19/20 Journal occitan et catalan, video report, 22 October 2016
Videos - Youtube
16 October, Susie Harrison. 14mins 24 secs. Ring-side seat in
the church. Good coverage of Terre Maire.
16 October, BlanchNegreRLB. 7mins 30secs.
16 October, Gazette Ariegeoise. 1mins 52secs.
Grand Pardon, Anneke Koremans, Pan Occitania Media. 7 mins 48 secs.
Slightly flaky history in the introduction. Good interview with
Bertran de la Farge towards the end.
Pardon aux Cathares de Montsegur. Guy Miquel. 7 mins 08 secs.
d'Ariège demande pardon pour le massacre des Cathares. AFP.
2mins 0 secs.
Other videos (unedited):
Courtesy of Yuri Stoyanov
1. In the Church at Montsegur.
2. In the Church at Montsegur.
3. In the Church at Montsegur.
4. In the Church - Bishop speaking.
5. In the Church - The Pater Noster in Occitan
6. In the Church - Terre Maire
7. Outside the Church - Bells
8. The "Cathar anthem" Lo Boièr played
on Occitan bagpipes below the Pog of Montsegur
9. Se Canto below the Pog of Montsegur
The castle, pog and modern village of Montsegur.
The village church at Montsegur before the
celebration on 16 October 2016.
Mgr Jean-Marc Eychenne
Abbé Gilles Rieux
Abbé Serge Billot
Abbé Jean Kadende
Abbé Pierre Bousquier
Abbé Edouard de Laportalière
Abbé Antoine Reneaut
M. et Mme Michel Carayol
Mme Fabienne Eychenne (diocèse)
M. Théophile Bolon (diocèse)
Abbé Jordy Passerat (Occitanie)
Abbé Jean-Claude Vasseur (Toulouse)
M. Pascal Scordino et famille
M. Christophe Hériard (Préfecture)
Mme Anne Peny (Préfecture)
M. Gérard Onesta (Région)
M. Patrick Roux (Région)
M. Kamel Chibli (Région)
M. Marc Sanchez (Pays dOlmes)
M. Gérald Sgobbo (Pays dOlmes)
M. Stéphane Bourdoncle (Pays dOlmes)
M. Barthélémy Maris (Pays dOlmes)
M. Robert Finance (Mayor of Montségur)
M. Jean-Michel Lattes (Toulouse)
M. le colonel Wanecque (Gendarmerie)
M. et Mme Bertran de la Farge
M. et Mme Jean-François Laffont
M. et Madame Patrick Lasseube
M. Jean Villeroux
M. James et Mme Sophie McDonald
Dr. Yuri Stoyanov
Mme Muriel Batbie-Castell (artiste)
Mme Béatritz Lalanne (artiste, Terra Maïre)
Mme Marie-Ange Gacherieu (artiste, Terra Maïre)
M. Thierry Marcoux (artiste)
M. Claude Roméro (artiste)
M. Xavier Vidal (artiste)
Mme Alix Dubault (intervenante)
Mme Inge De Robert (intervenante)
Société M2 Music : M. Jacques Ghilardi et M. Fabien
Gadmer (logistique : sono)
Mme Marie-Françoise Pujol (logistique)
M. Claude Marti (artiste)
M. Serge Pey (artiste)
M. Francis Fourcou (réalisateur) et son équipe.
M. Gérard Jazottes (Toulouse)
Press / Media